Fear restricts, constrains. The fearful brain can't imagine opportunities, only threats. And the options, when faced with fear, are limited - hide in the hopes that it will disappear, or fight against its source - real or imagined. The third, more challenging option, is to summon the courage to look our fear from all sides, poke at it a little, ask it a few curious questions and see if it remains solid, or turns to dust.
Little by little, courageous act by courageous act (big or small), we begin to see fear for what it is - a shadow on the edge of our imagination, one that could overtake us, but doesn't need to.
Fear keeps us from reaching out to our neighbour, while courage takes us through the uncomfortable place of not knowing another to the well worn seat of friendship.
Fear makes us wonder what great tragedy might befall us, while courage opens our eyes to what's possible if we stretch, through hurt and uncertainty, to the other side of struggle.
Fear divides us, depleting our confidence in our own goodness and in that of others. Courage allows us to see who we are without turning away, accepting ourselves and extending that acceptance out into the world.
Fear is a natural human response, an instinct with a purpose. Left alone, experienced purely, it will dissipate as real threats subside. Fueled by imagined enemies, however, fear will overtake us, shut us down, block the light.
But even in that darkness, there is a way out, a path to hope and possibility. That path is courage.